Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

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One Day, Two Ports: Skagway & Haines

Foggy Morning in Skagway

After our long day in Juneau, the next day we visited two ports: Skagway in the morning and Haines in the evening. This was our first time visiting two ports in one day. We had planned to take a dogsledding excursion through the cruise line for Skagway, but we just planned to explore the town of Haines on our own.

Skagway is a town with a lot of history. After the United States purchased Alaska from Russia, the border between Alaska and Canada was only vaguely defined. When the Canadian government requested a survey in 1871 after being united with British Columbia, the United States thought an examination of the land would be too expensive. In 1896, gold was discovered in the Klondike region of Canada’s Yukon Territory prospectors began heading to the Last Frontier to make the 500-mile trek in search of their fortunes.

Their journeys began by crossing the mountains over the White Pass or the Chilkoot Trail near Skagway. It is estimated that in the spring of 1898, 1,000 prospectors came through Skagway each week. Of all the people who flooded north in search of gold, no more than 4,000 prospectors found any, and only a few hundred became rich.

Foggy Morning in Skagway

The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad opened in 1900 over one of the routes the prospectors took in search of their fortunes. The railroad still exists today and is a popular shore excursion for travelers visiting Skagway. This summer, because of Canadian border restrictions, the train was turning around before crossing the U.S./Canada border. I think this would be my first choice the next time we find ourselves in Skagway.

Downtown Skagway features about 100 buildings remaining from the Gold Rush days and is the home of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, so of course, we had to stop in and get our National Park Passport stamped and watch the video about the area’s history. Of course, we also stopped at Klondike Doughboy for their famous Alaska Fry Bread.

All-in-all, Skagway was my least favorite port. I know the town is rooted in history, but it felt the most inauthentic of all of our stops. Everything there exists for tourists in a way that was different from Sitka and Juneau (Haines is the other extreme and you can read about that below). When I travel I really look for authentic experiences and that felt hard to find in Skagway.

Haines from the Water

Haines is just south of Skagway and refers to itself as the adventure gateway to Alaska. Haines is known for its bald eagle preserve and Historic Fort Steward (its not there anymore but you can read a plaque about it). If you haven’t made plans for Haines, there really isn’t much to do there. It felt like they stuck a cruise port in small-town America. We walked around for about an hour and just got back on the ship. One of my biggest regrets about this trip is that we didn’t book the evening canoe safari or another excursion in Haines because this ended up being a wasted stop for us.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop back next week when I recap our dogsled excursion in Skagway! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: View from Mt. Roberts

Inside Passage

Mt. Roberts Tramway

After returning from our whale-watching excursion, we joined the masses at lunch at Tracy’s King Crab Shack. Tracy’s is located right at the cruise ship terminal, right next to where our bus dropped us off. Being right in the middle of the action, of course, the crab comes with a steep price tag but it was absolutely worth it! Tracy’s serves Red King Crab (AKA The Deadliest Catch), but I decided to go with a less expensive snow crab. When I placed our order for one crab shack combo featuring 8 oz of bisque, 4 mini crab cakes, and 14 oz of crab the guy behind the register told me that’s not really enough food for two people so I added the shrimp ceviche. It was 3:00 by now and we were hungry but we could’ve split that and it would have been enough food. With the ceviche, we were stuffed and didn’t end up having dinner until right before the buffet closed that night. If you’re looking for good crab in Juneau and don’t mind paying the tourist prices, look no further than Tracy’s King Crab!

Since our ship didn’t depart for the day until 8, we still had time to explore Juneau after our lunch! We decided to take in the city from above at Mt. Roberts Tramway AKA the Goldbelt Tram. The base of the tram is right at the cruise terminal, on the other side of the parking lot from Tracy’s. I had never ridden in a Tram like that so it was a fun experience! The only downside was that being early June, most of the hiking trails were still snow-covered, so the view was nice, but there wasn’t really much else to do once we got to the top. Once the snow melts, Mt. Roberts is a jumping-off point for several trails varying in length from two to seven miles. Tickets for the tram are $45 for adults so admission could add up quickly for families.

Goldbelt Tram

Tram and Cruise Ships from Mt. Roberts

After our journey back down the tramway, we through town to Cope Park where we flew the drone for a little bit before heading back to the ship. We really enjoyed our long day in Juneau! It was nice getting to see so much of the city without a time crunch!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop by next week as I recap our day in Skagway and Haines, Alaska! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Haines

Approaching Haines

Whale Watching in Juneau

Whale Watching

After our short time at Mendenhall Glacier, we climbed back on the bus and headed for Auke Bay to catch our whale-watching boat. Once we got to the boat, we sat down on the comfortable, indoor seats as the captain hit the throttle to where the whales hang out.

When booking this trip, I noticed a lot of tour companies advertised that you will get your money back if you don’t see a whale, and now that I’ve been there, I get it. Auke Bay and the Inside Passage is where the humpback whales come in the summer to eat. The naturalist onboard explained that the whales migrate every year from Alaska all the way to Hawaii to mate. But, there is no food for them in Hawaii or along the journey so they have to get all their nutrients for the whole year when they are in Alaska. She estimated there were probably 50 whales in the water around our boat.

Whale tale at the surface

Glimpse of a whale tale

If you haven’t been following along on my journey, I should tell you that we left our camera batteries in Vancouver so all of the photos taken on our whale-watching trip were taken with my phone. While I wish I had awesome whale photos, I have to admit that not having my camera really allowed me to live in the moment and enjoy the experience of whale watching. And honestly, I don’t know if my reflexes would’ve been fast enough to see the first glimpse of a whale and move the camera to the exact spot to capture it. Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t try again.

We booked this excursion through Alaska Tales on Viator and I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a whale-watching excursion in Juneau. We had an all-female crew, which is very uncommon, and the boat was much smaller than some of the other ones we saw in the area. When we saw “whale smoke” (what one of the kids on board called when the whale blows air and water above the surface. I liked the phrase so I adopted it) or a glimpse of a whale, the captain would move the boat closer so we could get a better look at it. Not to mention their price was significantly less than we originally payed through the cruiseline.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop by next week when I detail our experience at the Mt. Roberts Tramway in Juneau! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Mendenhall Lake

Mendenhall Lake

Exploring Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier from Photo Point

Mendenhall Glacier is a part of the Tongass National Forest in Southeastern Alaska and is located about 12 miles from downtown Juneau. Our Glacier and Whale Watch tour through Alaska Tales, took us first to Mendenhall Glacier before heading to the harbor to catch the whale watching tour.

Mendenhall Glacier is currently 13 miles long and has receded about 1.75 miles since 1929. In 2012, the retreating glacier exposed tree trunks and logs that have been dated to 1,200 and 2,350 years old and are teaching scientists about the ecosystem of Alaska before the glacier formed.

The Visitor Center at Mendenhall Glacier was the first U.S. Forest Service visitor center built in the United States in 1962. Exhibits in the visitor center cover the history of the glacier including what it looked like in 1794 versus today. There are also exhibits about the local wildlife including bears, mountain goats, and salmon.

One of the most popular hikes at Mendenhall Glacier is the Nugget Falls Trail. It is a 2-mile round trip hike from the visitor center and takes you to scenic Nugget Falls. It is a fairly easy, gravel trail and the forest service says the hike takes about an hour on average.

Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center Sign

Unfortunately, our tour only gave us an hour to explore Mendenhall Glacier and we spend about ten minutes waiting for a bus parking spot to open up, so we didn’t have as much time to explore as we were hoping. We’re fast walkers and could probably make it to the falls and back in less than the hour that the forest service says the hike will take, but we didn’t want to miss the bus that was taking us to the boat to go whale watching. So, we ended up doing the 1/3 mile photo point trail instead. This short trail is the perfect spot to capture the glacier.

I wish our tour would have been set up so that we did the whale watching first and then had time to explore the Mendenhall Glacier area. It would’ve been great to just take as much time as wanted and then got on the next bus headed back to town. I guess, that’s why a lot of people rent cars when they’re in Juneau. Then you could spend as much time as you’d like exploring the trails. I guess we’ll just have to make a return trip to Juneau sometime!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Cruise Ship in Juneau

Serenade of the Seas in Juneau

One Day in Juneau, Alaska

Cruise Ship in Juneau

Serenade of the Seas docked in Juneau

After spending the day in Sitka, we woke up the next morning in Juneau, Alaska! Juneau was our longest day; we were in town until 8 pm, so that allowed us to see a lot!

We had originally booked a full-day excursion through Royal Caribbean for our day in Juneau that included whale watching, Mendenhall Glacier, and a salmon bake, but about a week before embarkation, they canceled it. Probably the most frustrating thing about this was that they credited the amount back to our debit card but we were told we wouldn’t have it for 10 days, which was after we boarded the ship. I really don’t understand why with it being so close to sailing, they didn’t just credit our onboard account and allow us to book another excursion through them. Excursions in Alaska are much more expensive than in the Caribbean so we really didn’t want to dish out hundreds of more dollars for something to do this day. We ended up going with a third-party excursion company that I found on Viator that didn’t charge us until 48 hours in advance, by which time we had the refund in our account for the original excursion. It ended up working out because the new excursion I found was $150 per person cheaper than the one through Royal Caribbean.

The excursion we ended up booking was with a small company called Alaska Tales and they offered a tour that took us to Mendenhall Glacier and Whale Watching. Afterward, we got lunch at the iconic Tracy’s King Crab and we took a ride on the Goldbelt Tram (AKA Mt. Roberts Tramway). Then, we explored the city for a while before heading back to the ship.

Chris was able to pick up the new battery for our camera while we were in Juneau, so pictures from the second half of this day were taken on our Fuji. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do this before our whale watching, which was disappointing, especially because I rented a big telephoto lens to catch some whale action shots. I guess that’s just another reason why we’ll have to make another trip up to Alaska sometime!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I get into the details of our time exploring Mendenhall Glacier! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Totem Pole

Totem Pole Trail

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